KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s head of refereeing, has conceded that the credibility of the video referee system is being harmed by the time taken to reach decisions.
Most of the matches at the Confederations Cup in Russia, which has now reached the semi-finals stage, have featured recourse to what is called the VAR operation in one way or another, mostly concerning goal awards but also identity issues.
Busacca, a Swiss former international referee, was positive in general about how well the system had worked in reducing the number of errors by match officials. The next tests come in the semi-finals which see Portugal face Chile in Kazan on Wednesday and Germany meet Mexico in Sochi on Thursday.
He said: “We didn’t have any clear mistakes missed but, after the conclusion of this tournament, we can work for improved results. We know what is working and what is not and we will see what can be improved.”
Busacca indicated that the world federation needed as many national associations and leagues as possible to join the testing programme. This would assist not only FIFA but every involved country’s own match officials and players.
The role of the law-making International Football Association Board was not mentioned. It appears to have been bypassed by the pace of the race to video justice. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has already indicated that VAR will be used at the World Cup back in Russia next year.
Busacca explained that simple and direct communication between the match referee and the video assistant was crucial in reducing waiting time between the incident and the decision. Finding a way to keep fans informed in a timely fashion was also important.
Several minutes were taken up in Sunday’s Group B game between Germany and Cameroon when Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan had to be corrected after initially sending off the wrong player.
Busacca said: “Communication is crucial. It must be short and clear. Not too long, as everyone saw yesterday. We have to admit that is not good.”
He also said that it was necessary to tighten up on the time between an incident and the review. This meant match officials could not await the next break in play, partly also because other, complicating incidents might occur in the meantime.
Busacca said: “If a referee doesn’t whistle then, in principle, the game should be stopped immediately [on the order of the video assistant] when there is a clear mistake.
“We will never be perfect but we will achieve a reduction in the mistakes. Technology will be a big tool for prevention.”
Busacca did concede that clarity over some incidents, such as the mass brawl in the Australia-Mexico game, was beyond even the video referee.
Also at the press conference, FIFA head of competitions Colin Smith and local committee ceo Alexey Sorokhin provided positive updates on the organisational aspects of the Confederations Cup.
Smith said the overall operation had been carried out “at a very high level” throughout the four host cities. Some 450,000 fans had attended the 12 group matches for an average of 37,000 per match which was slightly higher than in 2009 in South Africa.
He praised the 6,000 volunteers as “fantastic” and the provision of 262 free trains between cities for fans. The matches had been broadcast in 183 territories and the 8m in Russia who watched the hosts play Portugal was the top audience for a sports event in the country this year.
Sorokhin was similarly content with the organisation but warned against complacency. One administrative breakdown concerned spectators not collecting ahead of time the essential Fan-IDs without which they cannot enter the stadia. More distribution centres would be set up.
He also dismissed as “absolutely made-up news” reports in the foreign media about allegations in last year’s two World Anti-Doping Agency reports and ongoing issues concerning the original hosting award back in 2010.
** A group of British spectators were detained briefly in Kazan last week after trying to bring prohibited flares into the stadium at the match between Germany and Chile.
The Russian Embassy in London stated they were members of a ‘media team’ trying to test the Confederations Cup security system. Self-evidently it had worked.